Should you be Facebook friends with your staff?

If you are a manager, should you be friends on Facebook with your team? This is a question I asked, appropriately enough, on Facebook recently. The answer? It depends.

The jury is out on whether it’s a good idea or not, but there are some areas of agreement. Let’s start with the pros and cons:

Pros

  • Makes the manager seem more ‘human’ and fosters a more personal relationship.
  • Helps the manager learn more about their employees – what’s going on in their lives, what makes them tick, the skills they have.
  • Opens a new channel of communication which is less formal.
  • Helps keep in touch with alumni who leave the business.
  • It’s entertaining.

Cons

  • The employee may feel their manager is stalking them – some things are private.
  • The manager may learn something they’d rather not know about a team mate.
  • The manager may be opening themselves to some form of discrimination charge if they find certain information.
  • Some managers feel being friends impairs their ability to manage effectively.
  • The manager might share something inappropriate about themselves.

In terms of rules of the road and advice:

  • It’s not ok for the manager to initiate the Friend Request – this might put people in an uncomfortable position of having to accept.
  • It is ok for the employee to initiate the request – which the manager can then choose to accept or not.
  • The manager should either accept all Requests or none, otherwise it smacks of favoritism.
  • Managers should consider using Google+ or LinkedIn for professional social relationships – it’s ok to initiate those.
  • Employees who have been Friended can make judicious use of the Permissions, Filters and Lists features of Facebook.
  • You probably shouldn’t unfriend your boss.
  • Review your company’s social media policy – there may be some guidelines in there to cover the situation.
Personally, I have found Facebook to be helpful in getting to know staff and in building a personal relationship. Then again I have a fairly open style of management and communication, which might not fit all organizations. I am however guilty of friending people at work (sorry!), so I’ll perhaps use G+ for that moving forward. What has your experience been? Are you Facebook friends with people at work?

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I write about digital communications and personal performance. Please feel free to follow me on Twitter at @morganm or subscribe to this blog here.